Live Review: Marquis Howell, Livestream

Material: U.K. heavy rock magazine Kerrang! once described Los Angeles band Marquis & the Rhythm Howlers as, “Cigarette-sodden alley music that feels like grubby prayers to a wheezing god.” It’s a fascinating and entirely accurate sentence not least because, in contemporary emo fashion, the contrast of light and dark (“grubby” and “prayers” for example) works undeniably well. That’s the Rhythm Howlers all over; beautifully hopeful and gospel-adjacent Americana, blues and folk, passed through a horror movie filter. For these regular livestreamed shows, we just get frontman Marquis Howell crooning some tunes. Viewers get to request songs which Howell may or may not play. It’s all very casual, and yet absolutely intriguing.

Musicianship: Howell knows his stuff. When one fan asks him to play Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” he takes a valiant run at it before conceding that he’d rather learn it properly than just improvise. He can swing between the country stylings of Jimmie Rodgers and the jazz material of Cab Calloway, without breaking a sweat. Howell is a gifted guitarist, but his performance is as much if not more about feel than technical ability.  

Performance: Howell is visually compelling, despite the fact that he’s simply sat at home. The dim lighting and red curtain behind him offer a nightclub-esque vibe which, combined with the crooning nature of his delivery and gothic themes, adds a surreal, David Lynch-ian feel. On top of all that, Howell is wearing a white eye mask and skeleton jacket, and sporting a mess of long hair and a signature mustache. The effect falls somewhere between cable TV host of a movie marathon, and Mardi Gras. Whatever—it all works spectacularly well.

Summary: We’re two years into this damned pandemic now, and so we’ve seen a hell of a lot of these sort of home-based livestreamed performances. It’s very difficult to make them thrilling at this point, but Howell does a very good job. He barely moves, but his performance is hypnotic and the great news is these Howler Hours are still going on, so we certainly advise everyone to check them out and maybe PayPal a few bucks into the virtual tip bucket.

Contact: [email protected]

Web: rhythm howlers.com

Players: Marquis Howell (guitar, vocals)